Cardiff council hands over keys to historic Old Library and Norwegian Church
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Cardiff council is due to hand over the keys to the Old Library and the Norwegian Church.
Both historic buildings have a hefty maintenance backlog and will be leased out to save the council money.
The Old Library, on the Hayes in the city centre, will be taken over by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
The Norwegian Church, at Cardiff Bay, will be taken over by a new charity led by the Welsh Norwegian Society.
Upcoming changes could see much of the Old Library turned into music and performance spaces, while keeping the Welsh language centre and Museum of Cardiff. Meanwhile the Norwegian Church will be protected from previous fears of becoming a “bland retail outlet”.
Councillor Peter Bradbury, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “These are really exciting plans for the future of the Old Library, while still remaining sympathetic to the history and tradition of the building.
“This will be a huge boost for performing arts and perfectly complements the existing Museum of Cardiff and the neighbouring St David’s Hall, which will create a hub for creativity and culture right in the city centre.
“The Welsh Norwegian Society have already secured some funds and are actively seeking further funding should a transfer be agreed. The Society understands the traditional values of the Norwegian Church and plan to invest in and improve the building while honouring its original features and history.”
The Old Library opened in 1882. Part of the building is currently leased to Virgin Money. Plans from the music college include restoring the building, and a new ‘city living room’ on the ground floor with a cafe and performance space. Previous problems in the building include a faulty lift which led to the fire service being called to rescue people trapped inside.
Professor Helena Gaunt, principal of the Royal Welsh College, said: “This architectural gem has education and community built into its foundations. Taking that history into the future, we aim to bring the space to life with music, drama and a range of live performances as a magnet for local people. It feels like a perfect fit for Cardiff as a ‘City of Music’.
“Anyone who passes our current campus in Bute Park will appreciate the magic of hearing inspiring music spilling out through open windows — that magic will now become a feature of the city centre.”
The Norwegian Church was built in 1868, to provide a place of worship for the many sailors from Norway who came to Cardiff Bay at the time. Fears were raised two years ago the council would hand over the building to a private business, to cut costs, with thousands backing a campaign opposing the plans. Now it will be taken over by a charity instead.
Dr Martin Price, chair of trustees of Norwegian Church Cardiff Bay, said: “We have been working closely with Cardiff council to transfer the church back into an independent charity. This will enable us to access more resources for the Norwegian Church, which is an iconic part of Cardiff Bay’s waterfront.
“We have exciting plans for the church, explaining its heritage, building on its reputation as an arts centre and enhancing its role in the community, and will be welcoming people back to this lovely building very soon.”
The council’s cabinet is expected to sign off the deals on Thursday, November 18.